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Under the shade of a Barcaldine gum tree

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The response to Kay Rollison’s An Open Letter to Bill Shorten was overwhelming, suggesting that many Labor voters are dissatisfied with Mr Shorten’s performance as Leader of the Opposition. This, of course, remains open for debate. We follow this up with another letter to Mr Shorten, from Damian Smith, who is not so much dissatisfied with Mr Shorten himself, but the party he leads.

To The Hon. Bill Shorten,

Mr Shorten, I’m concerned.

My concerns regard yourself and the party that you lead and represent. Recent reports speculate that you are considering not blocking supply to this farcical attempt at fascism masquerading as a budget, that you would consider doing so “undemocratic”.

Mr Shorten, this budget is undemocratic. It is a stretch to even call it a budget. It would be more accurate to call it a summation of all of the broken promises of this government, all the brazen lies these cretins slathered on the Australian electorate in a craven grab for power. All of what was promised in the election has been retracted. The opposite has been put into effect. That is not, to my way of thinking, conducive with democracy.

This is the time when the Labor Party should be at its most vehement, jaws locked firmly on the exposed jugular of an overconfident foe. Yet you look set to let this injustice slide, to once again do what the Labor Party has become so good at in the last decade – capitulate.

Mr Shorten do you even remember the light on the hill?

I do, though every day it becomes even more dim and distant, as those of us who still strive for it are waylaid by the tyrannies of evil men and the sheer implacability of those that would set their will against us.

I used to be a member of the Labor Party. I believe in the values that the party was built on – equality, egalitarianism, “a fair go”. I believe that the measure of a man is in the quality of his work and the strength of his accomplishment, not the money in his bank or the name on his birth certificate. Ben Chifley’s Light On The Hill.

In those values I still believe, though I fear the Labor Party does not.

I had to leave. I left as I watched the political landscape change and not for the better.

I watched as the right-wing of Australia migrated from “right-wing” to “crazy, backwards, religiously extreme, flat-earth, young-earth, creationist, f**ked-up right wing” and I watched as the Labor Party, traditionally the “left”, in an attempt to claw back any and every vote that it could, went from being left wing to being “just slightly left of the Tea Party nutters”.

In the most Faustian of moves you sold your soul. You sold out the people who truly believed in the cause to try to woo those whose vote you would never have.

You neither had your cake nor the satisfaction of eating it.

That I could not countenance. So I left.

The right controls the media and so too do they control the paradigm. They control the lexicon and by association the minds of those swayed by such things. Climate change “debate”. Carbon “tax”. Budget “emergency”. It doesn’t matter that these things are not true, the lies will be printed anyway.

You can’t compete on this battleground, you don’t have the resources and, I would hope, lack the inclination. You can’t fight on their terms.

They’re so powerful that they have convinced a disturbing number of Australians that our greatest prime minister was actually our worst and that the world’s best treasurer of recent times was an incompetent buffoon who doomed our nation. You can’t win.

No amount of bipartisanship or flexibility is going to sway those who are not already for the cause. No amount of compromise is going to swing the vote of someone who has been convinced by a decade of Today Tonight that you are responsible for a fiscal crisis that never existed.

The only way for you to win is to provide a clear alternative. A better option. To offer people a glimpse of the light on the hill.

The answer is not to kowtow to the right but to provide a staunch and uncompromising banner on the left, one that shines high and proud for us to rally behind.

The right has convinced the people that socialism is a dirty word and that unions are tantamount to gangsters. The solution is not to abandon these principles, which are the core and the soul of the Labor Party, in an attempt to shed the stigma which has been so unfairly attached by a corporate agenda.

The answer is to embrace them, to wear them with pride and with dignity and to say that we are by the people, for the people, now and forever and that we will stand firm and implacable in the ebbs and flows of the capricious public.

That is the Labor Party I want to be a part of.

I should be your man Mr Shorten. I’m a Mascot boy, Kingsford-Smith – born under Bowen and raised under Brereton.

I’m a member of a trade union and a proud socialist. I’m at once both an artist and a blue collar worker – a comedian and an airport baggage handler. I AM the Labor Party.Yet I’m not a member. That concerns me and it should concern you.

Win me back Mr Shorten. Prove to me that this great party – Chifley’s party, Hawke’s party, the god-king-made-flesh Keating’s party, is still my party too. Lead by example. Lead by dissent, as our forefathers did.

Lead us to the light on the hill.

And you can start by blocking this blight of a budget.


Damian Smith

This article was first published as An Open Letter to Bill Shorten on and has been reproduced with permission.

Follow Damian on Facebook, Twitter, or visit his web page


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  1. Pingback: Under the shade of a Barcaldine gum tree | OzHouse

  2. Loz Lawrey

    A terrific letter that I’m sure speaks for many.

  3. Don Winther

    They are all in the same club
    Bill Shorton is just another right wing Jesuit educated career politician Liberal in the Labour Party.
    It is strange to me that Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, Christ Pyne and Bill Shorton are all Jesuit educated.
    They are all from and still in the same club so to speak.
    Tony has been a Jesuit twice as long as he has been an Australian.
    Its amazing what a good quality highly government subsidized private school male only education can do.

  4. Dan Rowden

    This started out badly, but built to a pretty decent rant (ok, it’s somewhere between a rant and a diatribe). Have to say I largely agree. I could not, currently, be a member of the party for whom I have always voted. There’s work to be done but I don’t think it actually includes giving the rank and file more say. It means giving the “Right” the heave-ho.

  5. Dan Rowden


    It is strange to me that Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, Christ Pyne and Bill Shorton are all Jesuit educated.

    It’s not strange at all. The Jesuits actually build quality secondary level schools.

  6. DanDark

    I thought I would share this email I sent to Bill, when Gina was out and about on ninemsn news, (if you can call the crap news on there) starting the class divide for her friend Tones and Co back then, and the death of young Reza at Manus
    I did not get any response from Bill, so was starting to wonder what they are up to, because they have let Tones and co steamroll the country, with not a lot of resistance from Bill and Labor

    Date: Wednesday, 26 February 2014 6:30:22 PM
    Parliamentarian The Hon Bill Shorten MP

    Hi Bill
    I am just sending a quick email I watched question time today on TV I want to congratulate you on standing up to Abbott and his henchmen today It was what the Liberal party needed to hear.They have been suffering a bit from Tin Ear Or in total denial of the backlash of the Aussie people.Labor did not wreck the Generals reputation nor the Navy’s,but they will try to pin it on you and Mr Conroy for exposing a cover up, which it is Bill.
    The secrecy has gone to a whole new level with Abbott, its backfired on him, The catalyst being the young man who died in Manus so horrifically and cruely, (the fear in this young man before he died is unimaginable) by the very people who should of been looking after their safety and life. Like the motto says on March in March I say, No not in my name Mister AbbottI My children and I will also travel 3 hours to take part in the march in Melbourne.
    I did write to Abbott a few weeks ago and questioned why HE and Morrison are doing their best to trash our navy and countries reputation. When I saw orange life boats with asylum seekers in them, tied by ropes,being towed back by a big Australian Navy ships on another countries news. I was horrified and ashamed of being an Aussie at what I was seeing on a foreign news cast.
    Of course no response,from the Secret Service(Abbott) about my concerns. Then we had the burnt hands of some asylum seekers But according to Morrison and Abbott, No, our Navy wouldnt conduct them selves in such a manner. Another nothing to see hear people,geeeez The cover ups would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad. .
    Abbott is a the human wrecking ball everything he touches is trashed,wrecked and destroyed. The Labor party needs to band together more than ever Show true unity,not pretend unity there is a difference, and folk can see through it. Bill Do not give Abbott and Co anything to use against you and the party. They are in damage control and that was on display today, Julie Bishop being the loudest, so I emailed her and told her a few home truths and her lies and falsities and acusations are not working on the people of this country anymore.
    So Bill and Co please help the people all people,asylum seekers,single mums,the young and old that are unemployed,the disabled, the young and older students at school/uni and the elderly and anyone who I have left out here that Abbott is attacking. Keep up the good work Bill, do not waver Bill against the rancid of the Liberal Party.
    Abbott and Co will use every trick in the book to spin every stuff up of theirs on to you and Labor, for example the antics of today in Parliament they are trying to deflect the heat off them and shifting it to others, Labor being one, the Liberals know they are sliding into oblivion Its a just a matter of time and the clock is ticking down for The “adult” government in power now.
    Take care… Stay strong and carry on… For the sake of all of us, and this country…
    Regards Dan PS Goodluck…

  7. Dion Giles

    There remains a payback debt lying on the table after the outrageous CIA-dictated dismissal of the finest government we ever had. What could be more fitting than to pay back the debt by spilling the vilest government that Australia has ever had?

  8. Cath Wallace

    For goodness sake give Bill a break. He needs time to develop policy and work on reform of the party.
    Going for DD at this stage would do Labor more harm than good. Better to let the libs muddle along for a couple of years. They are doing a good job on their own. Going for a D D before even a year would be seen as undemocratic and likely shift the sympathy to the Libs. Much too chancy, and just consider the disaster if we lost. No matter what Bill or the party does there will be people who disagree and that’s fair enough b ut too much published complaint is grist to our opponents mill.

  9. DanDark

    Tell tones to give us a break, this country can not see out this corrupt lot of lying rabble
    For another 2 years, get real 🙂

  10. Carolyn Janson

    Damian, I hope you will send this letter to Bill Shorten. That way he will see it. Otherwise, its effect will be lost. Every open letter like yours should also be sent to the recipient.

  11. Kaye Makovec

    Wish I could believe any politician ever reads any letter or email from anybody, let alone their constituents.

  12. Lawrence Winder

    Dear Mr. Shorten,
    for F****K’s sake, show some vision and some fight!

  13. DanDark

    I sent this email to pip squeak Jamie Briggs
    The whole lot are just knuckle dragging Neanderthals
    And should all be exported as far away from this country that is possible
    And ASAP

    Subject: March in March,over 100000 Aussies came out to protest
    Date: Monday, 17 March 2014 11:32:41 AM

    Jamie Briggs
    You are a disgrace,and a typical liberal fool
    Concerning March in March,50 thousand people in Melbourne protesting, has to tell you something,
    an estimated 100000 people, came out to protest all over this country, against this fed gov,
    that includes YOU too, your arrogance is breath taking,and disgusting!
    March in March was huge, considering there was no advertising on mainstream media
    not before, not during,only after the event,
    as it could not be ignored any more, and the media knew it.

    As for yourself,laughing behind the fool Abbott
    when questioned about the March, and his total contempt for everyday Aussies,
    was a telling sign,that neither of you, are fit for high office in this country.

    There will be another protest,as many as it takes to remove you pack of LIARS
    from the lives of decent AUSTRALIANS who have had
    a gut full of a pack of old white men”(Aborts Gov)

    Next time he stops to chat to a group of school kids like he did last week, only for PR for himself
    It has backfired hugely, just shows how out of touch he is with himself really haha
    It has made for great viewing on you tube Newton High nails Tony Abbott, its gone viral.

    Enjoy your retirement from parliament, it could be sooner than you ever imagined…..

  14. Cheryle Beattie

    This letter to Bill Shortenare my thoughts exactly. Bite the bullet and block supply

  15. john o'callaghan

    I agree with the sentiments expressed in your letter,well done and well written,and i hope Bill gets a chance not only to read it,but also understand and absorb the content.

  16. corvus boreus

    Dear Mr Shorten,
    Democracy is a system of the least worst, and labor are generally that option in the two party system.
    You do not, however,currently offer any real stated clarity of policy or demonstrated honesty of intent in the current conduct of your party.
    You resist call for investigations into universal corruptions, despite the obvious ethical and practical need for an end to, or hobbling of, the influence of corruption in national politics.
    For this alone I deem you still to be a party of factions and apparatchiks, completely unworthy my vote in you pursuit of government.
    Ps, I still detest you and yours less than that other nest of cestoids, trematodes and juvenile coleopterids.

  17. DanDark

    Corvus, I will have to get my dictionary out to find out definition of them creatures
    But bloody funny, thanks 😉

  18. corvus boreus

    tapeworms, flukes and grubs

  19. DanDark

    Thanks, saved me 5 mins
    And now it’s even funnier I know what they are lol

  20. corvus boreus

    Happy to regurgitate 😉

  21. Cath Parry

    Today is my mothers 6th Anniversary and she would roll over in her grave to think of the political mess we are in at the moment. She was born and bred under the gum in Barcaldine and I think the fact that Campbell Newmann was the member for her beloved Ashgrove where she raised her family would be a double whammy. I love what the Labor Party was but I am not so sure we are heading down the right path at the present time we need to take a hard long look at how to get rid of this LNP even if it is a double dissolution we cannot let our lifestyles slip into oblivion as they will if Abbott and his cronies have their way.

  22. Kathy Sutherland

    Labor is looking much like the Coalition in Opposition – just say “No” to everything. Labor has produced no policies. It has allowed itself to be dragged into the Government’s argument that the economy is everything and bugger our society and the environment. I don’t think the “broken promises” thing is working. People want to know what Labor will do.

    The “softly softly” approach is not showing the people of Australia that Labor has any leadership or passion.

  23. Rossleigh

    Does anybody actually think that blocking supply would force an election? The Senate will change in a few days time – Abbott would have always rose it out till then, blaming Labor for any problems in the economy. Palmer wouldn’t block supply because forcing an election might leave without the power he momentarily has.

    But I’m pleased that so many people now consider that Fraser acted correctly in 1975 by blocking supply because he considered Whitlam unfit to be PM. I’d be interested to hear anyone justifying the differences without sounding as hypocritical as Joe Hockey telling us that the Liberals are the best friend pensioners ever had!,

  24. Dan Rowden

    Talk of supply blocking and a DD election is, to me, politically infantile, and arguably anti-democratic. But, you get that sort of shit when people are upset.

  25. DanDark

    You might be able to last 2 years, but there are thousands upon thousands that won’t
    There will be a brain drain, crime will be out of control, elderly will be dying in the streets
    Prostitution by kids will be the norm
    If that’s your vision, the quicker I get my kids and I out of this country safer I will feel 🙂

  26. Florence nee Fedup

    I wonder what the success rate would be for The Jesuits if they began educating women.

    It is the way one looks at the world and democracy.

    Some look at society and see the economy as it’s servant. Others look at the economy, and see people as it tools, it’s servants.

    I am on the side of people, civil society and see the economy the tool we used, to enhance life for all.

    Humans created money, not vice versus.

  27. trevor

    It used to be, it was told to me by Bob Collins during a break in a Senate hearing on Uranium Mining in Darwin some years back, That 1 constituent letter to a polly was worth, extrapolated, a small shitload of votes.

    That was in the days before our political representatives decided that having contact with constituents, except for carefully vetted Party meets, was better left to history.

    Letters from constituents now gets you referred to ASIO as some sort of State threat. How times have changed

    And now a days the state of Politics in Australia on the nose with an unashamedly lying prick for a PM, and the Adults in charge of Policy, Procedures and Protocols hell bent on a journey that is not wanted nor warranted except as a show of vain political force by a mob of bastards and bitches masquerading as a Government.

    Good Letter all the same and good luck with engaging the un-engagable.. better off trying to spend some time bringing a vision of what we need and what we want from the Political classes and seeing if there’s a way to implement this vision..

    If it has become the norm that Democracy in Australia has been hijacked by a political class of quite dubious merit, then I’d like to suggest that we, you, I need to put our energies to accepting this hijacked fact and finding if there is really any way of righting the ship of state.

    Export Abbott not Refugees.

  28. Judith

    We call Abbott a coward for not calling a dd, but Shorten is also a coward for not forcing one over this divisive budget

  29. Florence nee Fedup

    Sorry, Shorten cannot force a DD. Not sure it would be prudent, if he could. Rather sere Abbott stew in the mess that he has created for a little longer.

    Abbott is at his best on the campaign trail. People have to see the results of his actions first.

  30. greg toland

    First Point This Clown of a PM (One Term Two Faced Tony ,Apologies for praising Him ) Is totally Abhorrent I feel quite sick every time I see his stupid grin on my Television
    Second Point I agree that Labor are not doing enough to Highlight the Incredible Lyingfest, Maybe they are Letting the Clown Hang himself BUT People need to Know the Labor Party is out there fighting this Mob , SO Billy Boy get you and your team of experts to start Showing that you are well worth supporting, YOU cannot fight this Pathological liar on an even playing Field, as he just tells another Lie , Get Him rattled by creating some serious debate if you lay off him people will think he is right , He Is a Master Liar and will never change Keep reminding people every day

  31. Carolyn Janson

    Trevor, please don’t put people off writing to MPs. It does not get you to the notice of ASIO! I have been writing to MPS for years now and never once had a knock on my door… I may be in their radar, for public protests, but not for writing to MPs. WE should all be doing this more and more; they do take note, especially when there are many.
    Please, everyone, write to them and write again – and again – and again. It may be the most effective tool for getting their attention. And I don’t bother with careful politeness, unless it’s someone I respect; no abuse but I tell them my opinions straight.
    If we begin to think like the populations who are under police states and dictatorships, we are lost. WE do still have a democracy, but believe me, we will not retain it if we start with fear like this. As things are now, we need not fear much; but if we let them believe we are afraid of them – R.I.P. democracy.

  32. DanDark

    Yes let them know, just don’t use the C word, its not a good look
    just ask, Pyne lol but all other words are ones choice, everyone has a right to
    write to our representatives to the Parliament 🙂
    This is still a DEMOCRACY so lets keep it that way…..

  33. Michael Taylor

    Having worked in the public service I must sadly admit that Ministers never get to see the letters written to them, and for that matter, on most occasions neither do they see the letters of response. They are read by public servants, and the responses are written by public servants. And all the responses are written using standards words, much of which include statements about how good the government is.

    Under the Labor Government we were instructed NEVER to denigrate the previous Liberal Government in the reply. Under a Liberal Government, of course, they encouraged the odd shot at Labor.

    No offensive letter was ever responded to. If an letter contained the F word or the C word they were filed under the ‘No further action’ category.

    I might add, as a matter of amusement, that many letters to Howard were riddled with profanities. 🙂

  34. Michael Taylor

    And I wish he had seen them. 😆

  35. BJWard

    In the replies to Damian’s letter was one appealing to us to give Mr. Shorten a break – that he needed time to develop policy and work on reform of the party.

    I don’t agree. I do agree the party needs reform, but we don’t have time to “develop policies” and work on those reforms. We know what the problems are with the party; and in fact Mr. Shorten holds the leadership as a result of one of those problems. That is, that the party doesn’t listen hard enough to the rank and file.

    If Mr. Shorten mucks around for the next three years, picking and choosing what obnoxious policies, out of all the obnoxious policies brought forward by Abbott, Hockey and Co (I refuse to call them a government – they remind me of a Dickensian company, with about the same regard for their fellow beings as a pre-reformed Scrooge) he will oppose, and which he will support, he’ll lose all the momentum of the current outrage over this unfair budget, and with that, rthe next election. We need action now.

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